The US Government Didn't Need Apple's Help Unlocking The San Bernardino iPhone After All

The Government Didn't Need Apple's Help Unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone After All

The saga over whether the US government should legally be allowed to force Apple to write software to help it unlock seized iPhones may be over soon — or at least the first round. The government has confirmed that it was able to get the data off the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook without Apple's help. "The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court's Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016," the latest government status report, released today, reads.

An unnamed government official told USA Today that the Justice Department plans to withdraw its case against Apple. The FBI delayed its court hearing against Apple so it could try an alternate method of unlocking the iPhone. We still don't know exactly what that method was, but many security experts suspect it involved NAND mirroring.

One enormous question remaining: What was on the damn phone?

And another: How will this case affect how the government pursues cooperation from tech companies in the future? This is not an end to the tension between law enforcement officials and companies with a business interest in safeguarding user data.

While the DOJ wasn't able to use this particular case to establish precedent, the government filing is worded to very clearly emphasise that it was legally right to force Apple to help. The contested assistance, in this filing, is "mandated".

This is a way of pulling out of the conflict without admitting that the government's legal argument sucked. It is a temporary détente at most.

[USA Today]



    They wanted to set a precedent, they realised they weren't going to get it, so they just opened the phone using the same method they've used a hundred times before.

    The fbi deliberately stalled an active investigation for a power grab.

    This weakness in iOS was discovered just in time to give the FBI a plausible reason to drop the case. They thought it would be a slam dunk way to expand government authority and didn't anticipate how hard Apple would push back. Their case was weak to begin with. No they can drop the case without "losing". It's entirely possible they didnt break into the iPhone at all.

      It's entirely possible they didnt break into the iPhone at all.
      True, certainly a possibility, or, what if Apple themselves help crack it, secretly, still keeping face and looking like they are trying to save "privacy", from a world I might add where it disappeared long ago. There's a movie in this!

      Last edited 29/03/16 8:07 pm

        Highly doubtful. There's too many ethical idealists who still work at Apple to allow that to happen. If it got out, it would be an incredible PR and HR disaster for them.

        Anyway, it's likely that the FBI didn't need Apple to begin with.

      I often hear people talking about the almost pathological desire to 'expand government authority' but I don't really understand it.

      Can you tell me what you think the ultimate end game of the FBI? What is their purpose for obtaining 'expanded authority'?

      Also, can you tell me if you think that the US government is in league with the FBI? If so, which section of the government? Because surely you don't believe that the 100 US Senators, the 435 US Representatives, the 35,000 FBI employees and the executive (that's the President) are all on the exact same page do you?

      If the US government is divided on what it wants (like when they ignored the FBI's request for legislative changes a few years ago), which section is working with the FBI? The President with a heavily stacked Republican House and Senate? Or the Congress with a Presendent who vetoes all their bills?

      I'm genuinely curious. Because when you start saying that tens of thousands of people who can't seem to agree in public if water is wet, who agree to work with each other in secret, to lie to their countrymen and abandon their publicly stated goals in an attempt to obtain some shaddowy unstated goal... kinda starts to sound like a conspiracy theory... Just sayin'.

        Did you follow the Snowdon or Manning cases at all? The US government's desire to gain access to the private data of individuals was demonstrated beyond doubt. US government fears about "going dark" (encryption of personal devices) is driving this case. I'm far from a conspiracy theorist. But what has been revealed these past few years has convinced me to oppose all government access to our data unless it comes with due cause, a warrant and judicial oversight.

          Well, in this case, there was a search warrant, Court Order and judicial oversight (as the FBI does not issue Court Orders or search warrants - that's the Court's job). The FBI are complaining that when the US Supreme Court issues a search warrant under changes made within Apple's devices around 18 months ago made the Supreme Court issued warrants useless. So the FBI asked the US Government to legislate a fix. They declined at the time. So the FBI asked another US Court to issue a Court order to compel Apple to assist with the extraction of data from a device lawfully seized under a Supreme Court issued warrant.

          Here's a time line of US politics.

          In 2004, Richard Clarke the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States, (his office was located within the US State Department) testified before the 9/11 Commission under oath and apologised for the failing of the intelligence and law enforcement to protect American citizens against the 9/11 attacks which killed over 3,000 of their citizens.

          The US government vowed to do everything in its power to ensure that didn't happen again, they set up the Dept. of Homeland Security and broke down old barriers in relation to inter-agency information sharing and passed a whole raft of new laws. And they also ended up with a whole heap of programs run out of the NSA which Snowden eventually leaked to the public.

          Now, I'm not suggesting that the NSA chose the right course or even acted lawfully, but however ballsed up their execution was, I can understand their intent - not that their intent should excuse their actions.

          In relation to the FBI's 'intentions' what more do you want? They're conducting a mass murder investigation and they wanted to be able to access information from a device that was seized during a search warrant?

          In relation to their wider desires of being able to access encrypted information, I think they're being pretty upfront about it. They've gone on TV, gone to their government and penned articles in papers and conducted interviews with journalists. They're saying that wide-spread current day encryption is hampering serious investigations into criminal activities.

          You don't believe them? You think that they have some other terrifying plan? What other scary purpose could they want for accessing information? To know stuff? For what purpose? Taking control of the US government in an armed coup? Reading your email for fun because their employees are bored and interested in a laugh? Do you think they're selling your information to get rich from advertising revenue?

          Knowledge is great, but it's a means to an end. What do you think the purpose is of the FBI wanting to decrypt files are? They say it's because they're trying to investigate stuff, which is kinda their job. That's why the US funds them to the tune of over $8,000,000,000 a year.

          Also, if you're an Australian. How on God's green earth does the US's police have anything to do with us? No-one seems to think Pakistan's police has anything to do with us? The US has different laws, values, different systems of government and law enforcement. About the only thing we share in common with the US is that we both love Game of Thrones. So the idea that "Oh the US Police did something that I don't like so I'm scared of AU law enforcement" is kinda tinfoil-hat-like.


            Why do you think snowden was/is hunted so much.
            he unveiled mass surveillance of ALL calls from us citizens. Why did they collect all that data? They have testified that they have not even been able to successfully filter that level of data (no one could) and they have testified that all that data collection has amounted to 0 stops of terrorism.

            Why is england spending i believe it was 130 million pounds trying to get julian assange to sweeden? so that they can get him to the USA.. extradition..

            Why when all of these massive injustices released by manning, snowden, assange has the government not gone.. ok so obviously the public hates it and as illegally treated yet they keep it going.

            The government wants more and more power for anything they want to do. Im not a consipracy nut. It's just simple to see. the government wants all your data.. You can easily silence someone you know everything about, you can easily coerce someone who you have all secrets for.

            With all our data we couldn't even stop monis, a known terror nut who had written death threats to soldiers and was on bail for killing his ex wife!! and they need more data? they have enough data.. they need common sense on how data is used.

            Be careful about thinking we're 'immune' because this is in a different jurisdiction. Apple have been requested to do similar things in other corporate HQs of theirs around the world. Setting one precedent due to 'extraordinary circumstances' opens the gate in other countries - it becomes very difficult for a company to build and maintain multiple versions of software complying with vastly different policies around the world - privacy, tracking etc.

            It also has incredible implications for the ownership and sovereignty over data. Where is the data actually stored, under whose jurisidiction is a case like this actually decided - the country of origin for the OS, the country in which the data is stored, or the country in which the crime is actually being prosecuted? In an age of cloud storage - do you actually know where your personal data is, and who is protecting it?

            It's not tinfoil at all. These are legal discussions that are quite real, and ongoing.

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